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A Cluttered Australia: Hosting US Military Facilities

(Contributed)                                              24 August 2019

A number of media releases from the Defence Department have revealed a chilling picture of a future Australia hosting endless US military and security facilities for wars in the Asia-Pacific region.

As the present US-led Cold War has intensified, the Asia-Pacific region has come to resemble a future 'theatre of war'.

The US clearly has no intention of relinquishing its dominant regional position without preparations for 'real-war' scenarios.
 
A recent disclosure that the US was seeking 'a more prominent role for Australia in US security thinking as a potential sanctuary, marshalling area, support base and force multiplier for US forces in the Indo-Pacific', left little to the imagination. (1) US military planning has clearly pushed Australia into the front-line of its regional planning. It includes 'the importance of ports, airfields and defence infrastructure in northern Australia and (will) put pressure on already stretched fuel storage and resupply facilities'. (2)
 
While South Australia has already been labelled the Defence State due to its extensive defence research and development and manufacturing sector, Northern Australia, being defined in military terms as 'those areas north of the 26-degree south parallel', includes the Darwin and Tindal bases which have 'become critical nodes in global defence supply-chains'. (3)
 
US imperialism  sees us as a base for their military activity
 
There is no ambiguity with the nature of the US-led military planning: a recent statement from US Air Force Chief of Staff General David Goldfein that 'Australia's top end bases were seen as a strategic asset by the US in its military planning', should dispel any doubts amongst the less well initiated with developments in regional defence and security provision. (4)
 
The significance of Australia for US military planning is two-fold:
 
• US forward deployed forces 'in the western Pacific are concentrated in a handful of bases that are vulnerable to a Chinese first strike and out-of-area reinforcements might not arrive in time to change the course of battle'; (5)
• the US-led Trilateral Security Dialogue (TSD) which has formally linked Australia and Japan as two regional hubs with the Pentagon and real-time telecommunications provision, has increased the significance of US intelligence facilities based at Pine Gap which in turn are linked to Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean.
 
Australia and Japan to compensate for a decline in US influence
 
Further disclosures following the publication of two military reports, from the Australia Strategic Policy Institute and the US Studies Centre, which reinforce the view that the US imperialists are planning for their two regional hubs to take greater responsibility for the defence and security of 'US interests'. It was noted, for example, in the US Studies Centre report that the US 'no longer enjoys military primacy in the Indo-Pacific and that its capacity to uphold a favourable balance of power is increasingly uncertain'. (6)
 
It was also noted, furthermore, 'Australia and Japan (had become) southern and northern anchors of a strengthened US alliance'. (7)
The position of the US is quite clear: the statement said that 'as Tokyo and Canberra continue to modernise their militaries over the next decade, they will maintain – and in some cases expand – their collective inventory of assets in several crucial areas: attack submarines, anti-submarine warfare assets and principal surface combatants'. (8)
 
It was noted furthermore that Australia was required to 'deliver targeted funding' in line with its 'strategic partnership with the US' for expanded air and naval capabilities – to support F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, submarines, upgraded frigates and amphibious assault vessels – ‘which are viewed by defence experts as crucial in enhancing Australia's presence in the Indo-Pacific'. (9)
 
These moves have also been accompanied by larger groups of US military personnel rotating through Darwin for six-month deployments and training for regional real-war scenarios. Since 2012 more than 6,800 US marines have served in the Northern Territory alongside Australian counterparts. A further 2500 are expected in 2020. (10)
 
Lily-pads along the island chain
 
A further dimension of the US-led military planning is the creation of what are called 'lily-pad' facilities: small, safe areas, used by military forces to link 'to another forward location within the Pacific or the first or second chain'. (11)
 
The small military facilities are already scattered across the wider region, following high-level diplomacy conducted by then President Obama who visited numerous countries to re-open parts of US-led networks which US imperialism had 'abandoned or was evicted from.... decades ago'. (12) It was noted, however, the US had 'no desire to reoccupy any of the massive south-east Asian bases from the last century. Nor do they have the money to create new ones. So they want permission to operate from the old installations as guests, mostly on the temporary basis'. (13)
 
It should also be noted the smaller-scale military facilities and 'lily-pads', remain easy to hide and are not as conspicuous as formal old-style military bases. They are, therefore, useful for clandestine operations, invariably linked to other organisations for intelligence gathering. It is also significant to note in this context the US intelligence services have a long history in using 'front organisations' within the corporate sector.
 
The use of smaller-scale military facilities and 'lily-pads' for US-led military planners is four-fold and has included:
 
• greater flexibility in moving military personnel and cargo to remote regional locations, particularly the sensitive South Pacific countries of Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu;
• enhanced facilities for hosting longer-range drone use for intelligence-gathering; while larger drones already have a ten-hour flight-span, intermediary 'lily-pad' facilities increase their range into the wider region. The same facilities are also usable for Nano-helicopters, small surveillance-type drones programmed 'to be able to be used for urban warfare' purposes where they can be flown into and around buildings 'to search for enemy personnel, reporting data including video to a remote operator'; (14)
• the US-led military facilities have already been noted as 'the ADFs ability to see deep into the Indo-Pacific region as an essential enabler for striking deep when necessary; (15)
• when US Defence Secretary Mark Esper recently stated 'America wanted to deploy ground-based intermediate-range missiles in Asia sooner rather than later', it drew attention to the significance of the smaller-scale lily-pad' facilities for siting purposes. (16) When Prime Minister Scott Morrison stated Australia would not be siting US missiles due to the range from Australia to China, a curious further reference from US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo 'left open the possibility that Australia could be asked to host such weapons', thereby insinuating military facilities across the north of the country were being ear-marked for storage purposes pending rapid deployment elsewhere for real-war scenarios. (17)  
 
Island chain theory       
 
The resurfacing of Island Chain Theory is evidence that US-led military planning is drawing heavily upon previous provision from the last Cold War. It was used, initially, against perceived threats from the former Soviet Union into the wider region.
 
Island Chain Theory has also been used by US-led military planners to designate the role of Australia for 'new, high-end military exercises', which will include Canberra to 'acquire robust land-based strike and denial capabilities', which will subsequently provide the Pentagon with an improved regional posture, infrastructure and networked logistics' to 'strengthen Australia's northern posture'. (18)
 
It is significant to note there was no reference in the official media release to 'US interests', but then, why would those concerned want to draw attention to military planning of a dubious nature?
 
It is also significant to note most of the decision-making about US-led military planning has taken place behind closed doors, without any real public scrutiny. Those situated in the towering heights of Canberra appear quite content to pursue US-led military planning and clutter this country with equipment for fighting future wars of their making in the name of 'US interests', while using Australian military personnel in the front-line of hostilities.
 
But then, that is what those sorts of people do; they tend to have tertiary qualifications but do not appear to be able to draw sensible inferences from their studies once in the world-of-work, employed in a decision-making capacity, usually in Canberra.
 
For the benefit of such people, it should be noted, therefore, that when then President Obama addressed a graduation at the US Military Academy at West Point, New York, in 2014, for example, and called on the US 'to lead through example and by creating international alliances', it was not a promise of a less aggressive foreign policy and a shift away from military might. (19)
 
It was, in fact, the laying of foundations for the present regional state of play, with all the dangers of real-war scenarios.
 
For, in the terminology of the last Cold War, the US position has remained quite clear. They believe that 'The Cold War is real war!'; the former is composed of the earliest stages of military planning while the latter is what happens after an escalation of diplomatic rivalries and tensions. (20)
 
Australia is already passing along this continuum; we are well into a new Cold War, with the war-mongers now amassing their military equipment in preparation for future real-war scenarios.
 
 We need an independent foreign policy!

1.     Conflict on our doorstep, The Weekend Australian, 10-11 August 2019.
2.     Ibid.
3.     Call to bolster north as Beijing threat grows, Australian, 19 August 2019.
4.     Strategic alliance in north enthuses visiting US chiefs, Australian, 22 August 2019.
5.     Weekend Australian, op.cit., 10-11 August 2019.
6.     'Boost north for China threat', Australian, 19 August 2019.
7.     Weekend Australian, 10-11 August 2019.
8.     Australian, op.cit., 19 August 2019.
9.     Ibid.
10.   Ibid.
11.   Ibid, and Diagram.
12.   US eyes return to south-east Asian bases, Guardian Weekly (U.K.), 29 June 2012.
13.   Ibid.
14.   Avalon 2019, Special Report, , 26 February 2019.
15.   Ibid.
16.   Beijing opens fire on 'offensive' US missile plan for Indo-Pacific, Australian, 7 August 2019.
17.   Hosting US missiles not on the agenda, Australian, 6 August 2019.  
18.   Australian, op.cit., 19 August 2019.
19.   US signals foreign policy shift away from military might, Guardian Weekly (U.K.), 6 June 2014.
20.   None Dare Call It Treason, John A. Stormer, (Missouri, 1964), page 7. (The whole publication has provided a significant insight into the nature of US-led Cold War thinking. The copy in possession of the contributor was found in a second-hand bookshop and stamped inside: Distributed by the Australian League
of Rights, Box 1297 L. GPO Adelaide, Depot, 15 Hanson Street, Adelaide. The ALOR was a well-known SA-based far-right organisation, prominent for decades following the Second World War. It was an active lobbying organisation within other right-wing and business-orientated bodies. In recent times it has re-morphed itself  and would appear an active entity.)

 

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